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Day 1 - Champs Elysee

Paris is seductive and its charms have a way of changing your plans. Delightful shops and cafes that weren’t even on your radar screen, much less your itinerary, beckon. And the next thing you know, you spent the afternoon buying mustard instead of looking at art. Tant mieux (so much the better). In a city as vibrant, captivating, and romantic as Paris, spontaneity rules.

So be flexible and allow plenty of time to explore whatever appeals at the moment. Plenty will.

Plan to spend a minimum of five days and schedule your sightseeing according to the day of the week. Most major museums, including the Louvre, are closed on Tuesdays. Consequently, the Musee d’Orsay, which is open on Tuesdays is packed. The best time to visit the Musee d’Orsay is on Thursday evening.

The department stores and most small shops are closed on Sundays, which is a good time to check out many of the city’s lively open-air markets. Many establishments close for a couple of hours at lunch time. So check to make sure they’ll be open when you go. The top attractions here -- the Arc de Triomphe, the Eiffel Tower and Notre Dame -- are open daily.

Do this itinerary in whatever order makes sense for your visit and you’ll have seen the major attractions, and gotten off the beaten path enough to savor the special allure of this beguiling city.

On your first day, even if breakfast is included at your hotel, consider starting your day with a stroll to the corner patisserie for pains au chocolate.

Although the Paris Metro is outstanding, taking it means you’ll see nothing en route -- which in Paris is a crime. And many of the city’s main attractions are in a fairly compact area. So we recommend walking as much as possible.

If you’ve never been to Paris before, head for the Eiffel Tower. Seeing the city from above will really help you get your bearings. And besides, it’s thrilling. You can take the stairs to the second landing, or take an elevator to the first, second, or third landing. Even if you pay to go all the way to the top, be sure to check out the views from the lower landings. Each has its own appeal. For a nifty souvenir, mail yourself a postcard from the post office on the first level.

On clear days, you can see for 45 miles from the 900-ft. top platform.

When you leave the Eiffel Tower, cross the Seine via the pont d’Iena. Here, the Jardins du Trocadero provide 25 acres of greenery between the Place de Trocadero and the river. The Trocadero Fountains are illuminated in the evening. The huge semi-circular building is the Palais de Chaillot, which houses four museums, a theater, and a cinema.

Walk along the Seine on Avenue de New York to Place de l’Alma. Princess Diana was killed in the tunnel beneath the Place in 1997 and there’s a memorial here.

If you can’t wait to get onto the river -- which is another great way to see Paris -- the Bateaux Mouches tour boats leave about every half hour. We prefer the cruises that leave from the more central Pont Neuf. But millions of tourists enjoy these one-hour tours.

Another option is the the Batobus, which stops at 8 locations along the Seine. You can buy a one day pass, and hop on and off as often as you like.

You can also take a tour of the Paris sewers from Pont d’Alma. It’s provides an alternative, if odiferous, view of the city.

From Place d’Alma, take stylish Avenue Montaigne to the Champs Elysee. Sophisticated shops including Louis Vuitton, Chanel, Christian Dior and other fashion luminaries line the street.

When it’s lunch time, one of the city’s most exciting restaurants -- Spoon, Food & Wine -- is nearby.

Those who haven’t been to Paris in a while will be amazed by the Champs Elysee. A massive reconstruction in the mid-1990s got rid of the parked-car lanes, widened the sidewalks, and added underground garages to ease congestion. Strolling the city’s grandest boulevard is now a pleasure.

The gardens lining the Champs Elysee were laid out in 1838 and became the grounds for the 1855 World’s Fair.

Walk to the Arc de Triomphe, commissioned by Napoleon in 1836 to commemorate his victories. Anchoring the Place Charles de Gaulle -- formerly the more descriptively named Place de l’Etoile (star) -- the Arc de Triomphe is the biggest triumphal arch in the world. To reach it, use the underground passageway. Don’t even think about crossing traffic here, even if the coast looks clear.

At 164 feet, the observation deck provide some of the city’s best views. You can climb the stairs or take the elevator to reach it. You’ll see the avenues radiating from the star, the Bois du Boulogne, and the gilded obelisk of the Place de la Concorde.

If you’re beat, find a cafe that strikes your fancy, plop, and have something cool to drink. If you still have energy, take Avenue de Friedland to Rue du Faubourg Honore, the haute couture center of the universe. Even if you’re not buying, window shopping at Versace, Hermes, and Cardin is great fun. And you’ll pass the Elysee Palace and the residences of the British and American ambassadors.

La Cave Taillevant at 199 rue du Faubourg St-Honore is a terrific wine shop with half a million bottles in the cellar.

For dinner, pace yourself and dine at a bistro or brasserie near your hotel.


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Day 2 - Tuileries Quarter

The Paris Museum Pass -- available at museums, tourist offices, and Metro stations -- will enable you to bypass the ticket lines which can take as long as half-an-hour to navigate. If you plan to visit lots of museums, it’s a good value and a big convenience.

To beat the crowds at the Louvre, avoid Wednesdays, and get there early -- the closer to 9AM, the better. To make the most of your time, have a plan. There’s simply no way to appreciate even one tenth of what’s here, so decide which periods or artists are of the most interest to you and visit only those galleries.

The Greek and Roman statuary -- particularly Venus de Milo and Winged Victory of Samothrace -- should make everyone’s short list. And most people will enjoy the 18th- and 19th-century French paintings. Tour the Louvre’s outstanding web site before your trip and you’ll be able to narrow your focus.

Those interested in 17th-, 18th-, and 19th-century French furnishings and objets d’art should visit the Musee des Arts Decoratifs in the Louvre’s Pavilion de Marsan.

Touring the Louvre could take half a day, although our eyes tend to glaze over after about two hours. When you’ve reached saturation, head out into the Jardin des Tuilleries for something to drink or an ice cream.

Laid out by Le Notre in 1664 the formal gardens are lined with chestnuts and lime trees. For memorable photos, take a donkey ride through the park.

Antique lovers will swoon over Le Louvre des Antiquaires, where more than 250 dealers showcase three stories of top-quality antiques. It’s across the street from the Louvre. But don’t go if you’re looking for bargains.

Across from the Museum, the Place de la Concorde was ground zero during the French Revolution. Louis XVI, Marie Antoinette, and 1,300 others lost their heads here. The recently restored obelisk at the center of the Place was made in Luxor 3,200 years ago.

Take the Rue de Rivoli back toward the Louvre. Then take Rue de Castiglione to Place Vendome, one of the loveliest squares in Paris. Chopin lived -- and died -- at No. 12 and the legendary Ritz hotel is at No. 15.

From Place Vendome, take Rue de la Paix to Place de l’Opera. Have lunch in any of the cafes en route, or nab a sidewalk table at Cafe de la Paix. The food’s overpriced, but the people watching is terrific.

After lunch, you can tour the Opera if you’d like. If shopping’s on your agenda, three of Paris’s great department stores are just a short stroll away. Boulevard Haussman which runs behind the Opera house is home to Galleries Lafayette, Au Printemps, and Marks and Spenser. All have English-speaking help desks with discount cards for tourists.

With its gorgeous stained glass dome, Galleries Lafeyette, built in 1906, is worth a look even if you don’t intend to shop.

In the evening, take a Vedettes du Pont Neuf cruise along the Seine. Many of the city’s monuments and all 32 of the bridges spanning the Seine are illuminated at night. So it’s very romantic.

For dinner, try Au Trou Gascon in the 12th, Sir Terence Conrad’s Alcazar in the 6th, or Brasserie Flo in the 10th.


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Day 3 - Ile de la Cite

On Sundays, the roads flanking the Seine are closed to automobile traffic, giving bicyclists and roller bladers free reign. The Quai de la Tournelle is yours from 9AM to 6PM and the Canal St-Martin from 2PM to 6PM.

Bicyling the city on Sunday morning while the Parisians are sleeping in is a real treat.

Start your sightseeing at Notre Dame, on the Ile de la Cite, the larger of the two islands in the Seine. No other building in Paris so closely mirrors the city’s history. Begin by exploring the exterior of the church with its magnificent -- though some say, "hideous" -- flying buttresses. You’ll get the best photos of the eastern end of the church from Square Jean XXIII.

The West Facade has three beautiful portals -- the Portal of the Virgin, the Portal of the Last Judgement, and the Portal of St. Anne -- that you should check out before entering the cathedral. The three Rose windows and choir are highlights of the interior.

Hardy visitors can climb the 387 steps of the tower. The views from up there are wonderful and you’ll get a bird’s eye view of Notre Dame’s outstanding gargoyles.

Ancient history buffs may want to visit the Crypte Archeologique in the main square in front of Notre Dame. Inside the crypt -- which is more than 260 feet underground -- you’ll see remnants of the original Parisii settlement.

One of the most beautiful structures in the world, Sainte-Chapelle, is also on the Ile de la Cite, a short stroll away. Walk down the Place du Parvis Notre Dame to Rue de la Cite and take a right. Turn left of Rue de Lutece and then enter Place Louis-Lepine to explore one of the most colorful markets in the city. Marche aux Fleurs is the largest flower market in the city, except on Sundays, when it sells birds.

When you’re through in the market, continue along Rue de Lutece until you reach Boulevard du Palais. The huge, Gothic complex in front of you is the Palais de Justice -- the Paris law courts. Practically hidden by the courts, Sainte-Chapelle was built by Louis IX to house relics from the Crown of Thorns and the True Cross.

Begun in 1248, it is one of the most glorious interiors in the world. Be sure to visit on a sunny day when the 15 stained glass windows tranform the upper chapel into a kaleidoscope of colored light. More than 1,000 bible stories are illustrated in the sublime windows and the overall effect is literally breathtaking. Highlights are the Rose Window, the Window of the Relics, and the Window of Christ’s Passion.

Also on the Ile de la Cite is the Conciergerie, the city’s prison from 1391 to 1914. Marie Antoinette was held here before her execution in 1793.

At the western tip of the Ile de la Cite near the Pont Neuf, you can take the stairs down to Square du Vert-Galant, a tiny triangular garden that makes a wonderful spot for a picnic.

When you’re through exploring the Ile de la Cite, take the Pont Neuf across the Seine to the Right Bank. If it’s not Sunday, pop into La Samaritaine. The department store was built in 1926 with iron and glass and it’s a great example of the French Art Deco style. There’s a beautiful Art Nouveau staircase inside.

As an added bonus, La Samaritaine offers one of the best free views of Paris from its rooftop. Take one of the center elevators to the ninth floor, go outside to the dining terrace, then take the spiral staircase up to the observation platrform. Under the railing, there’s a map labeling all the landmarks laid out at your feet.

Take Rue du Pont Neuf to Rue Berger and take a right. After a couple of blocks, you’ll pass Fontaine des Innocents, the city’s last surviving Renaissance fountain. Shortly after Rue Berger becomes Rue Aubry le Boucher, you’ll see the striking industrial exterior of the Pompidou Centre.

The Pompidou, also known as "Beaubourg," after its neighborhood, has been Paris’s top attraction since opening in 1977. Seven million people visit each year.

The controversial architecture didn’t hold up well, and the museum has reopened after a major renovation. Most agree that it’s better than ever.

There’s always an interesting temporary exhibit here. The National Museum of Modern Art is here and its permanent collection contains Dadist, Futurist, Cubist, and Surrealist works. Look for paintings by Picasso, Matisse, Miro, Dali, Braque and other modern masters. There’s also a library, a cinema, and temporary exhibition space at the center.

Cafe Beaubourg, particularly its terrace, is a great place to escape the hordes for lunch. The menu offers everything from bruschetta to spring rolls, and it’s very popular with locals. It was designed by French architect Christian de Portzamparc.

East of Beaubourg, the Marais is one of the city’s most enchanting neighborhoods. So be sure to explore its nooks and crannies. Once the early home of the city’s well-to-do, many of the Marais’s mansions have been recently restored and today house museums, stylish shops, and cafes.

Art lovers who are hungry for more can visit the Picasso Museum, in the 17th-century mansion of a tax collector. When Picasso died in 1973, the French government presented his estate with a $50 million tax bill. This collection of more than 200 paintings, 3,000 drawings and engravings, and 150 sculptures settled the debt. Highlights include The Kiss, Les Demoiselles Avignon, and a self-portrait from his Blue Period. Also on display are paintings from his personal collection by Renoire, Cezanne, and Matisse.

History buffs will enjoy the Musee Carnavalet which occupies two adjoining mansions. The museum is as notable for the gorgeous interiors as for their contents. Don’t miss the reconstructed Fouquet Jewelry Boutique designed by Alfons Mucha.

And photography fans should check out the Maison Europeenne de la Photographie, which houses more than 15,000 photographs taken between 1950 and the present.

Place des Vosges is the oldest square in Paris, and in many ways, its the most beautiful. There are red brick houses on each side of the square, built atop arcades filled with shops. The scene of many a duel, Place des Vosges has been a vital part of the city for more than 400 years. Victor Hugo lived -- and wrote most of Les Miserables -- in No. 6.

Find a sidewalk table that appeals and take a load off your feet. Or if you still have some energy, there are dozens of antiques shops in the courtyards and alleyways off Rue St. Paul from the Marais to the river.

For dinner, splurge at Pierre Gagnaire, Taillevent, or Le Train Bleu in the Gare de Lyon.

Or if you’re a good roller blader and it’s Friday, show up at the Place d’Italie at 9:45PM for the three-hour group skate through the city. As many as 18,000 bladers take part and there are gendarmes along the route to stop traffic.

If you’re just a beginner, try the group skate Sundays at 2PM from the Bastille.


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Day 4 - Left Bank

If you’ve been patiently waiting to visit the Musee d’Orsay, go this morning. Although art historians know nothing compares to the Louvre, many visitors prefer the Musee d’Orsay.

And why not? The physical space in a turn-of-the-century rail station is gorgeous. The mostly Impressionist art -- dating from 1848 to 1914 -- is accessible and appreciated by almost everyone. And you can do the whole thing in a few hours without rushing. If you only do one thing in Paris, make it this one.

Once you’ve toured the Musee d’Orsay, walk along the Seine to Quai Voltaire, named for one of its many famous residents. Voltaire lived at No. 27; Oscar Wilde, Richard Wagner, and Beaudelaire lived at No.19

Today, several of the city’s most prestigious antiques dealers are located here.

Take Rue des Saints Peres to Boulevard Saint Germain, the Left Bank’s main drag. Or if you’re serious about food, continue on to Rue de Sevres and the Bon Marche department store. Their Grand Epicerie de Paris offers the best culinary shopping in town.

This area has always been the intellectual center of the city, and you’ll find many book stores, antique shops, and cinemas in the neighborhood. The Village Voice on Rue Princesse is a great English-language bookstore. If they’re having a reading when you’re in town, go. It’s a great way to meet ex-pats and anglophiles.

If it’s lunch time, there are several legendary cafes near St-Germain-des-Pres, the oldest church in Paris. Cafe de Flore, Les Deux Magots, and Brasserie Lippare all within a block of the church.

Wine lovers should visit La Derniere Goutte on rue de Bourbon le Chateau, the pedestrianized street behind St-Germain-des-Pres. Run by an American, it’s one of the best -- and friendliest -- wine shops in Paris.

There’s a wonderful open air food market on rue de Buci. If you’d like to picnic, you can find everything you need here for a picnic in the nearby Jardin du Luxembourg, the Parisians’ favorite park. The twin-towered church you’ll see en route is St-Sulpice, begun in 1646 and not finished until a century later.

The park’s ponds and fountains offer a complete respite from bustling St. Germain. The Palace around which the gardens are centered is now the home of the French Senate. Take time to enjoy the peace and quiet and to watch the ubiquitous lovers.

Boulevard St. Michel radiates from the northeast corner of the garden and divides St. Germain from the Latin Quarter. Heading toward the river on St. Michel, you’ll pass the Univeristy of Paris, better known as the Sorbonne. Established in 1253, the school is now comprised of 13 separate universities.

After you pass the Sorbonne, you’ll come to the Musee National du Moyen-Age, which houses one of the most important collections of medieval art in the world. Priceless jewelry, illuminated manuscripts, and wood carvings are displayed. But the real draw here is the six Lady with the Unicorn tapestries.

Dating from the 15th century and remarkably well preserved, the tapestries alone are worth a visit.

When you leave the museum, you’ll see the Gothic spires of St-Severin, one of the prettiest churches in Paris. Completed in the early 16th century, it took more than 300 years to build.

Many of the streets in the neighborhood are pedestrian-only, making it a pleasant place to explore. Bibliophiles can pop into Shakespeare & Co. At No. 37 Rue de la Bucherie. A book stamped with their insignia makes a great gift.

When you’re ready to stop, you’ll find plenty of cafes in the area for a beer or a glass of wine.

For dinner, try Fish in the 6th, Chez Michel in the 10th, or Bofinger in the 4th. Then if you’re up for a night out, catch the late show at the Moulin Rouge or le Lido. If you’re looking for something a little hipper, try Batofar -- the hottest dance club in Paris which is in a barge on the Seine -- les Bains Douches, celebrity central.


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Day 5 - Montmartre

If you enjoy antiques, junk, or humanity in general, take the Metro to Porte de Clignancourt and head for Marche aux Puces de Clignancourt, the largest flea market in the world. It’s a 15-minute stroll from the Metro station.

More than 2,500 dealers cover 15 acres with everything from buttons, to dinnerware, to furniture. It’s packed on weekends, but it’s open daily.

You’ll see the white dome of Sacre Coeur towering over Montmartre. Though the Place du Tertre can be mobbed with tourists, Montmartre is still one of the most romantic parts of Paris. Make an effort to get off the main drags and explore the side streets and you’ll be rewarded with unexpected treats.

Artists -- among them Picasso, Renoir, Utrillo, and Toulouse-Lautrec -- have made Montmartre their home since the turn of the century. You can see paintings by many of Montmartre’s masters at the Musee de Montmartre.

Another artist showcased here is Salvador Dali. Espace Dali has a collection of over 300 prints by the Catalonian surrealist.

Sacre Coeur is almost as recognizable on the Paris skyline as the Eiffel Tower. The interior is redeemed by a glorious Byzantine mosaic crowning the dome. The real reason to visit is the view. At 300 feet, Montmartre is the highest hill in Paris, and the dome is the second highest spot so the views are sensational.

When it’s time for lunch, try Le Moulin a Vins, which seems to have been frozen in time since the 1930s.

After lunch, you could take the Metro to Pere Lachaise to see the final resting place of Oscar Wilde, Sarah Bernhardt, Edith Piaf, and Jim Morrison. Many Parisians spend the day enjoying the peace, quiet, and cool of the shaded cobbled lanes here.

Closer by, you could visit the Cimetiere de Montmartre, where Berlioz, Degas, Nijinsky, and Francois Truffaut are buried.

Those with an interest in science and technology should go to the Cite des Sciences et de l’Industrie at La Villette. The state-of-the-art, interactive museum cost a staggering $642 million. More than 5 million visitors come each year to experience weightlessness, fly a plane in a flight simulator, watch a 3-D movie, or tour the human body.

For dinner this evening, splurge at Georges in the Pompidou Centre. You can dine on the terrace or in the stunning dining room. Either way, you’ll enjoy unforgettable views of the city. Or dine on the terrace at Cafe Marly, 50 yards from I.M. Pei’s pyramid at the Louvre.

After dinner, hit one of Paris’s terrific jazz clubs. Petit Jounral Montparnasse in the 14th is good for traditional jazz. New Morning in the10th has acts like Chick Corea and Dee Dee Bridgewater. Le Sunset/Le Sunside in the 1st is two clubs in one where you can choose from electronic or acoustic be-bop. And the Lionel Hampton Jazz Club in le Meridien Etoile Hotel has hosted B.B. King, Oscar Peterson, and Count Basie.

If you’re up for something different and uniquely Parisian, take a cab back to Montmartre and visit Au Lapin Agile. Today, this atmospheric cottage frequented by Picasso and Utrill is a music hall where a local chanteuse sings Parisian classics. Audience participation is encouraged and no one will mind if you mangle the lyrics to La Vie en Rose.

Whatever you choose to do, if you have any strength left, take one last stroll along the Seine before you bid Paris "Bon Nuit."